By Lea Wojciechowski Ross, Blogger for Dotten Collision ~ November 22, 2016
Thanksgiving is a holiday with a different kind of focus. Without the obligatory gift-giving, without the fanfare of party after party after party, we are able to simply focus on the loveliest things in life – family, food, and an attitude of gratitude. We are free to reflect on the deeper point behind Thanksgiving – namely, thanksgiving.
Credit: Google Images
Why is it so hard to be thankful? Why is it so easy to complain? Isn’t it tempting to (frequently) vent our frustrations about a person or a situation? How many people are aware that their complaining actually makes them unhappier and unhappier? According to Entrepreneur, “most people complain once a minute during a typical conversation” (Bradberry, 2016). Wow! Open your ears next time you have a conversation – chances are, you’ll hear lots of complaints – from out of the other person’s mouth… and from out of your own mouth.
Complaining rewires the brain for negativity. Your brain loves efficiency and is always looking for ways to do no more work than strictly necessary. When you repeat some behavior (like complaining), the neurons in your brain “construct a permanent bridge” as they “branch out to each other to ease the flow of information” (Bradberry, 2016) – which means it becomes more and more natural to keep repeating the behavior (like complaining). The more you complain, the more you’ll complain. Think about it – complaining increases your tendency to think negative things. The more you think negative things, the less happy you’ll be. The less happy you are, the more you’ll complain. And the cycle of negativity continues.
The good news is that the opposite is also true. The more you are grateful for the many blessings in your life, the more you’ll tend to think positive things. The more you think positive things, the happier you’ll be. The happier you are, the more grateful you’ll be. And the cycle of positivity continues.
Now, this doesn’t mean that you have to always be bubbly and smiling and laughing. Sometimes (a lot of times), life is hard, and we inevitably face difficult, painful times. But an overall attitude of gratitude helps you look on the bright side of life and deal with life’s difficulties in a productive, problem-solving way that doesn’t steal your deepest peace and joy.
It’s hard to stay positive. It’s hard not to complain and it’s hard not to worry. For many people, faith in God helps them to stay positive as they trust that God has already conquered fear, pain, and all the “bad” in life. To remind myself of the truth that God is Love and that God is in charge, I think of this recent song:
“Do not worry
It will be all right
Though there’s doubt in the world
Though there’s suffering
It will be all right. All right.
‘Cause God has already won” (Ross, 2016).
How can you cultivate a new attitude of gratitude this Thanksgiving? It takes intentional effort to remind yourself to be grateful (but remember, because of the way your brain works, the more you practice gratitude, the easier it’ll become to be grateful). Instead of complaining about having to do all the cooking yourself while family members just show up at the table, instead of complaining about the political debates that crop up during dessert, instead of complaining about other people’s complaints, shift your attention to things you’re grateful for: the skill of being a great cook, the fact that plenty of food is on your table, the freedoms of your country, the love you have for your family and the love they have for you. Go around the table and have everyone share something they’re thankful for. It may feel awkward, especially if you’ve never done it or if you aren’t particularly close with your family. But try it! It’ll ease tension and stress (by 23%, according to research!) and grow the positive mood and positive energy in your home.
Gratitude makes you happier. How fantastic that we have a holiday dedicated to celebrating gratitude! And so, a short litany of what I am thankful for:
I am thankful for all the blessings and burdens in my life – the blessings because they bring light and joy into my life, and the burdens because they challenge me to learn and grow and change every day. I am thankful for the desire and opportunity to explore new possibilities, because it keeps life fresh and interesting. I am thankful for music, emotion, creativity, curiosity, sunshine, inside jokes, and dark chocolate. I am thankful for the unexpected events, the discoveries and the revelations that make life meaningful. I am thankful for authenticity, fulfillment, and depth in my closest relationships. I am thankful for the fact that I am an idealist, because while I often experience pain and disappointment that reality doesn't meet the ideal, I also have an unending stream of hope and inspiration that the world can be a better place, and that I can help make it so. Life is far from perfect. But it is beautiful, and it's an adventure. Our desire for perfection is a deep yearning, and I am thankful that it captivates us and moves us to push onward and upward. Above all, I am thankful that the center of my life is Christ, because it is in Him that we learn truth and grow to see beauty.
What are YOU thankful for?
Best wishes to all for a blessed, positive, thanksgiving-filled Thanksgiving!
To read more about how complaining rewires your brain for negativity, visit:
To listen to the full song, “God Has Already Won,” visit: